LOS ANGELES – Coda Automotive begins deliveries of its electric sedan today after nearly two years of delays, with the first batch being shipped to customers in the San Diego area.

A leadership shakeup at the end of 2010 and ongoing uncertainty about a $500 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, in addition to a handful of missed production deadlines, leave analysts questioning the viability of the Coda brand.

However, Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh predicts the auto maker will have 45 dealerships in 25 cities across the country within the year.

Production in the first year is expected to be about 14,000 vehicles, with an anticipated 7,000 units going to consumers and the balance put into fleet service, he says. By 2015, sales are expected to reach 50,000 vehicles, mostly in the U.S.

“We are dedicated to producing a vehicle that drives great and burns no gas. We have done that,” says Murtaugh in the lead-up to this morning’s rollout of Coda’s first salable sedan at its final-assembly plant in Benicia, CA. “We are finally moving from the laggard stage to the contributor stage.”

Headquartered in Santa Monica, Coda is a U.S.-based company that anchors its business model on a joint venture with Tianjin Lishen, a Chinese worldwide supplier of lithium-ion battery cells.

About 65% of the Coda sedan is produced in China. The chassis are built by Hafei, a state‐owned car and airplane manufacturer that produces an estimated 200,000 vehicles a year.

As originally designed, the 5-door sedan’s battery pack provides 134 hp and 221 lb.-ft. (300 Nm) of torque and can drive the car 150 miles (241 km) on a single charge. The EV also is equipped with a regenerative braking system, an air-cooled active thermal management system and is capable of accelerating up to 85 mph (137 km/h).

The base model retails at $39,000, which falls to as low as $22,500 after federal and state rebates. Coda also offers a second, less-expensive version with 31 kW/h battery with a 125-mile (201-km) range priced at $37,250, which it has been heavily promoting in its marketing materials.